When Bob Dylan Refused to Let Aggressive Hecklers Ruin His Show
Bob Dylan’s pianist Alan Pasqua recalled a moment when hecklers tried to ruin a show, but Dylan refused to let the rest of his audience down.
The incident took place around 1978 on the tour leading up to the recording of Street Legal. In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Pasqua – also known as a member of Giant, among other roles – recounted the experience of performing in Berlin in the former West Germany.
“There were some people in the crowd that were planted, I guess, to cause a bunch of shit,” he said. “They started throwing shit at the band, like paint and rags. It was ugly. We left. We split. I’m back in my dressing room. We had outfits that we wore. I changed into my street clothes, just kind of hanging out and waiting for someone to say, ‘OK, let’s get on the bus.’”
He continued: “Bob comes in. He looks at me and goes, ‘What are you doing?’ I go, ‘What are you talking about?’ He goes, ‘What are you wearing?’ I said, ‘Street clothes.’ He says, ‘Get back in your stage clothes. We’re going back on.’ I was like, ‘What?’ He goes, ‘Alan, I’m just waiting for these people to leave. The rest of the crowd is still there.’ We waited about an hour and a half. We went back on. I mean, he was a hero. It was all those people that paid their money to see them. He didn’t want to let them down.”
Pasqua’s longtime connection with Dylan came after he’d completed a tour with Eddie Money, and initially refused the audition because he felt exhausted, before changing his mind. He jammed with Dylan’s bassist Rob Stoner before being invited to a full-band jam. “There’s like three drummers, four guitar players, three keyboard players,” Pasqua recalled. “Bob was there. He went, ‘OK, see you tomorrow.’ Next day, there’s two of everybody. This went on for about three or four days. [Then] I walked in and I was the only keyboard player. I just didn’t say anything. I was like, ‘I’m not going to ask if I got the gig because they’ll probably fire me just for asking.’
“During that rehearsal, Bob looked at me and went, ‘Do you know “Positively 4th Street?”’ I looked at him and said, ‘No, but I’ll learn it.’ He started laughing. I thought, ‘I’m toast. I’m out of here.’ Looking back at it, that might have been the reason I got the gig. I was honest with him. I didn’t try to bullshit him and play it poorly. Through my lifetime, we’ve intersected a number of times. It’s always gone really great.”